SAN DIEGO -- A suspended Manny Ramirez had 50 games to keep himself in game shape, but his absence from Sunday's lineup because of sore legs contributed to a roster move, and manager Joe Torre said he's likely to ration the outfielder's playing time until the All-Star break.
The Dodgers recalled infielder Blake DeWitt from Triple-A Albuquerque because they need a left-handed hitter off the bench. Juan Pierre would be that left-handed hitter, but he's become Ramirez's designated replacement, taking over in the sixth inning the first two games and starting in left field Sunday.
To make room for DeWitt, the club returned pitcher Eric Milton to the disabled list with a thoracic back injury "that never went away," according to Torre. It's the same reason that put him on the disabled list June 6 when the Dodgers had off-days upcoming and didn't need a fifth starter.
In a stroke of fortunate timing, Monday is an off-day. But it's not great timing for Milton, who had been scheduled to start Saturday in Milwaukee. Instead, Torre said he's considering Jeff Weaver, who has made four spot starts earlier. Torre said he'd decide Tuesday.
As for Ramirez, Torre said: "It's his legs -- he's not in game shape yet. He can pinch-hit today and we can leave him in the game. He has to get his legs under him. Running back and forth to the outfield, it takes some time. By the time the second half starts, he should be all the way back. That's what Spring Training is all about and, unfortunately, he had his season interrupted."
Of course, the club was hoping Ramirez would work the kinks out during the 10-game Minor League assignment that is provided for players returning from drug suspensions. But Ramirez took advantage of less than half of the assignment, playing part time in only five games. In those games, he had only 10 at-bats and played left field for a total of 20 innings.
In his first two games since returning, Ramirez is 1-for-6 with a walk, the only hit a line-drive home run Saturday. In both games, he was replaced by Pierre after a sixth-inning at-bat.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.